If you’ve already wheeled out the tea set and started practicing your best Maggie Smith bon mots, chances are you can’t wait for the Downton Abbey movie.
The film will be a follow-up to the beloved six season series, which aired on Masterpiece PBS. Set in the titular Crawley family’s country estate, the drama followed the lives of the family and their servants from the turn of the 20th century through sweeping societal changes including World War I and the Roaring Twenties. The show was one of Masterpiece’s biggest hits in years, winning 3 Golden Globes and 15 Emmys (and snagging 69 total nods).
Since ending its run in 2016, fans have been clamoring for a film, something many of the cast and creator Julian Fellowes have teased plenty. But excitement reached a fever pitch this past July when it was finally confirmed that the film was a go.
Here’s everything we know about the forthcoming film:
The film will land in theaters in September 2019, just in time to make an awards season run. The project will be released by Focus Features in North America on Friday, Sept. 20. International audiences will get the film a week earlier on Sept. 13.
The majority of the original cast is returning and producers announced the “original principal cast” would return, not specifying names. Back in July, EW confirmed Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, and Joanne Froggatt were onboard, while People confirmed Elizabeth McGovern and Laura Carmichael’s involvement.. Allen Leech also appeared to confirm he was onboard on their social media channels.
Many are likely surprised by Smith’s involvement as she repeatedly cited her disinterest in continuing, and in an interview with the British Film Institute, even suggested a potential film should open with her character’s funeral.
Matthew Goode who joined the series for its final season as Lady Mary’s love interest (and eventual second husband) will make a brief appearance. He told the Radio Times, “I’m just popping in at the end, which is a nice way to do it.”
The film will also welcome a host of new faces, including Harry Potter’s Imelda Staunton, Geraldine James (Anne with an E, Beast), Simon Jones (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Brideshead Revisited), David Haig (Killing Eve, Penny Dreadful), Tuppence Middleton (War and Peace, The Imitation Game), Kate Phillips (Peaky Blinders, The Crown) and Stephen Campbell Moore (History Boys, Lark Rise to Candleford).
Lily James, who broke out on the series as young Cousin Rose, will not be involved sadly, which she confirmed to People. “My character Rose moved off to New York, so it would be farfetched to bring her back,” she said. ““I would have loved to have come back for a scene, but for a movie it can’t be like a Christmas special and it needs to be a focused storyline. There was no space for Rose.”
One character who could make a surprising appearance? Cousin Matthew (Dan Stevens), Lady Mary’s first husband, and the subject of the series central romance until he died unexpectedly at the end of the third season. Back in August, Stevens posted a photo alongside his former costars Michelle Dockery and Allen Leach with the caption, “Should Matthew have a mustache for the #DowntonAbbeyMovie…? Vote below… ☑️ ❎”
It was likely just a joke, but who knows? Perhaps he could return for a brief flashback.
Details are pretty scarce. In a press release announcing the film, Downton exec producer Gareth Neame noted, “Julian’s script charms, thrills and entertains and in [exec producer] Brian Percival’s hands we aim to deliver everything that one would hope for as Downton comes to the big screen.” It gives really no indication of what to expect from the film excepting the usual romance, witty one-liners, and unexpected twists that made the original series a hit.
The series concluded its run with an episode set on New Year’s Eve 1926, and it remains to be seen how far forward the film will move things. Will it stay in the 1920s or pitch events further forward into the European political turmoil of the 1930s? Given Maggie Smith’s involvement, it seems likely events won’t pick up too far after the series’ conclusion since her character was already quite old when the series opened set in 1912.
The characters all found a relative happily-ever-after with both Mary and Edith finding romance after several false starts and tragedies, Carson and Mrs. Hughes found some degree of marital bliss, Mrs. Patmore and Mr. Mason paired off, and Tom found peace with his way-of-life at Downton. For more, read the recap here. We can only assume some of these happily-ever-afters will need undoing (at least temporarily) to create enough drama for a film — and the reported relative absence of Henry Talbot (Goode) from the film suggests Mary’s love life might be on the rocks again. But for now, this is all speculation.
The entire core Downton Abbey production team is returning for the film. Carnival Films, which produced the original series, is attached with Focus Features and Universal handling distribution. Creator Julian Fellowes, of course, penned the script and will produce alongside original series producers Gareth Neame and Liz Trubridge. Pilot director Brian Percival will also producer and Michael Engler returns to the director’s chair. Nigel Marchant also returns as executive producer.
We assume that many of the series’ production team, including costume and production designers, will likely also return given the involvement of all the original producers.
Shooting has begun
Production is officially underway. Series star Michelle Dockery revealed filming had begun with an Instagram post showing the clapboard for the film’s first take dated the 10th of September. “And…we’re off 🎬@downtonabbey_official,” she captioned a black and white image of a monitor with a blurry background appearing to feature the servants’ quarters, Mrs. Hughes, and Carson.
Note: This article previously misidentified Mrs. Hughes as Mrs. Bates. Changes have been made to correct that error.